When yearling cattle move from pasture to feedyard, owners generally expect to see some compensatory weight gain. Rapid gains early in the feeding period play a key role in the profitability of feedyard cattle. The degree of compensatory gain, however, is difficult to predict. A compilation of compensatory gain studies from the University of Nebraska finds compensation ranging from 19 percent to 88 percent, with a mean of 53 percent, in cattle coming off season-long grazing programs. Nebraska researchers observed that relatively short intake restrictions before entering the feedlot trigger compensatory gains, but do not improve feed efficiency or final weights. The researchers offer the following generalizations about compensatory gain:


  • Efficiency response is variable and difficult to predict.
  • Relatively short restrictions produce compensatory gain but not increased efficiency.
  • Yearlings gain more but are less efficient than calf-feds.
  • In general, the heavier cattle are entering the feedlot, the lower their feed efficiency.
  • Rapid gain on grass does not necessarily reduce feed efficiency in the feedlot, and often increases it.
  • One hundred and fifty-two pounds of extra winter gain produced 71 pounds of extra final weight.